Congressional Research Service. August 27, 2013.
Bees, both commercially managed honey bees and wild bees, play an important role in global food production. In the United States alone, the value of insect pollination to U.S. agricultural production is estimated at $16 billion annually, of which about three-fourths is attributable to honey bees. Worldwide, the contribution of bees and other insects to global crop production for human food is valued at about $190 billion. Given the importance of honey bees and other bee species to food production, many have expressed concern about whether a “pollinator crisis” has been occurring in recent decades. Over the past few decades there has been heightened concern about the plight of honey bees as well as other bee and pollinator species. Although honey bee colony losses due to bee pests, parasites, and disease are not uncommon, there is the perception that bee health has been declining at a faster rate both in the United States and globally in recent years.
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43191.pdf [PDF format, 29 pages].
Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. June 21, 2013.
The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year piece of authorizing legislation that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. Although agricultural policies sometimes are created and changed by freestanding legislation or as part of other major laws, the farm bill provides a predictable opportunity for policymakers to comprehensively and periodically address agricultural and food issues. The farm bill is renewed about every five years.
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS22131.pdf [PDF format, 12 pages].
Congressional Research Service. June 7, 2013.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on May 31, 2013, that a variety of genetically engineered (GE) wheat had been discovered in a field in eastern Oregon. No varieties of genetically modified wheat have been approved, or deregulated, by the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the USDA agency responsible for regulating the release of GE plants into the environment. Release of GE plants into the natural environment is regulated by APHIS under the Plant Protection Act (PPA), as amended. APHIS began a formal investigation in early May after notification by an Oregon State University scientist that preliminary tests of the wheat samples from the Oregon farm indicated the possible presence of GE glyphosate-tolerant wheat plants. The agency approved field testing of GE wheat in Oregon in 2001. At this time, APHIS does not know how the presence of the unapproved wheat variety occurred, how the wheat could have gotten into the field after so many years, whether violations under the PPA occurred, or whether the growth of the wheat is more widespread. Answers to these questions are among the objectives of the APHIS investigation.
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43100.pdf [PDF format, 8 pages].
Congressional Research Service. June 3, 2013.
The desire by many to redesign farm policy and reallocate the remaining farm bill baseline—in a sequestration and deficit reduction environment—is driving much of the farm bill debate this year. Several high-profile congressional and Administration proposals for deficit reduction have specifically targeted agricultural programs with mandatory funding. The political dynamics of sequestration and broader deficit reduction goals leave open difficult questions about how much and when the farm bill baseline may be reduced. In this context, Congress faces difficult choices about how much total support to provide for agriculture, and how to allocate that support among competing constituencies.
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42484.pdf [PDF format, 40 pages].
Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. May 2013.
Rising energy prices and changing energy and environmental policies have transformed the relationship between the energy and agriculture sectors. Traditionally, the relationship has been one-way, with agriculture using energy products as an input in production; during the past decade, however, the energy sector’s use of agricultural products as renewable-fuel feedstocks has increased substantially. This report examines both sector and farm-level responses to changing market and policy drivers such as the increased production of biofuel crops and other sources of renewable energy, together with changes in production practices to economize on energy-based inputs like fertilizer. We provide insight into how farmers have adapted to the changes and update and provide new data on the evolving linkages between the energy and agricultural sectors.